“We believe God will provide to keep us going. He always has,” says director
CARES volunteer Judy Brown loads up a turkey for one of Pickens’ needy families serviced by the local food pantry.
It’s Monday afternoon and volunteers for the CARES Food Pantry are bustling around the warehouse, rapidly filling orders for the line of clients waiting in the parking lot.
The bustling isn’t anything out of the ordinary for CARES, which for the past three years has served an average of 200 Pickens families a week. But today is special because in addition to their regular box of food clients are going home with either a turkey or a hen - just in time for Thanksgiving.
“If they have children they get a turkey and otherwise they get a hen,” said CARES’ Executive Director Larry Starr, who noted that during the holidays the number of clients peak. “They appreciate it so much. I’ve heard people say that without getting a turkey from CARES they wouldn’t have had a Thanksgiving.”
The turkeys come from the Atlanta Food Bank - just like 75 percent of the food CARES distribute year-round. The hens, Starr said, are purchased from local grocers.
The other 25 percent of food funneled through the Jasper-based pantry comes from local drives held by churches, schools and other entities.
“The ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ program through the post office collects non-perishables and all of that collected in Pickens comes to us,” Starr said. “These programs are invaluable and we really appreciate them.”
Even though CARES purchases their food at a modest price of 16 cents a pound through the Atlanta Food Bank, they spend approximately $1,000 every week on 6,300 pounds of food to feed Pickens’ hungry. They also spend over $100,000 each year funding non-food programs that help clients with their utility bills or rent in emergency situations, as well as a program that assists with transportation and childcare for adult students.
“In terms of finding funding for our services our philosophy is that God will provide to keep us going,” Starr said, “We believe we are doing God’s work by helping the less fortunate. We live in faith that there will always be enough and that we will continue to serve at the same levels because every year God has always provided.”
But Starr said last year CARES did have to take out an $8,5000 loan to maintain their levels of service and at this point has not been able to pay the note back. He said profits from the recent Taste of Pickens will help and that CARES has enough to maintain current service through January, “but after that point I am not certain,” he said.
Starr then noted that CARES is unique in that it allows clients to come in much more frequently than the standard.
“We let people come once, some twice a week,” Starr said. “That’s really unheard of. There are some pantries that only let clients come once a month or even less than that. We want to maintain our levels of service, because like I said we feel that we are doing God’s work by helping those who need it most.”
If you would like to make a donation to CARES you can send a check or money order to P.O. Box 1342, Jasper, Ga, 30134. CARES, located at 89 Cares Drive in Jasper, can be reached at 706-253-4777.
CARES is open for food pickup on Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and on Mondays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. It is open for new clients and emergency food only on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Financial Assistance can be reached by calling 706-253-4778. Financial Assistance is only open for walk-in clients from 8:30 a.m. to noon on the first, third and fifth Friday of each month. The first ten clients through the door are seen for Financial Assistance.